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Earth Journal by Gary Pendleton

Once upon a time with a duck called canvasback ...

From the North Beach boardwalk, where I take my morning walks, I have seen a small, mixed flock of Bay ducks, hanging close to the shore: mainly scaup, bufflehead, goldeneye and canvasback.  This is a tiny remnant of the vast flocks that once wintered here.

Calvert Cliffs’ Miocene marine deposits are the largest in the world. But why?

I am going to test your patience and write about geology. This means you will be tempted to immediately turn to the News of the Weird. Please don’t. Memorize the following sentence; it is your five-second speech on what makes Calvert County special: Calvert Cliffs contain the largest exposed Miocene marine deposits in the world. That, and a geological mystery.

Plus official counts you can join

It is hard to remember a transformation such as we just had, when the season seemed to change suddenly, with the decisiveness of a no-nonsense business executive. November was pleasant and mild, warm but not unseasonable, with enough rain and cold to bring out the sweaters and not fool us into thinking we had all been transplanted to Georgia. Then December came along and it was winter. The calendar might haves said not quite yet, but the thermometer said Now!

The sound and sight of Canada geese overhead

  Is there a more iconic figure from nature to represent the state of Maryland than the Canada goose? Resplendent as our state bird, the Baltimore oriole, is, it is seldom heard and rarely seen by the majority of Free Staters. The great blue heron and osprey are contenders, and I would also nominate the canvasback. But let’s stick with the goose.

Fall’s cool, western winds drive birds of prey our way

Fall is the time for raptor migration. For a few days after a cold front, when the wind comes from the west or north, hawks, eagles and falcons pass overhead in large numbers. It could be that cooler temperatures stimulate a response that makes the birds move. 

Sometimes it’s all ephemeral


It’s a complex balance that holds together the web of life

  It was late summer in the coastal plain forest. At mid-day, it was quiet but not quite silent. There was a background buzz of flies, then the whine of a mosquito in my left ear. Swat! Then I heard a sound like water coming from the trees.

Brown pelicans arrive after wintering on the Gulf Coast


Everything living eventually dies. If it weren’t for decomposers, we would be buried in all of the dead stuff.

Perhaps you thought you were living in the age of technology? Yes, humans with our tools and machines have had a tremendous impact on earth. Evidence of human impact goes back thousands of years, and the pace is rapidly accelerating. But a few thousand years is just a moment in the history of the earth. It might be easier to argue that we are living in the age of the beetle. Insects outnumber us, they outweigh us and they are a driving force in the world.